A&M expert: Don't need to raise gas tax at all

See the Texas Monthly blog entry by reporter Paul Burka here.

See Burka’s His Way or the Highway article blasting privatizing our public highways and the non-competes in these CDA contracts here.

Also, to view the video of David Ellis, of the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M, giving this testimony before the Study Commission on Transportation Financing. The Commission’s co-presiding officers are Senator Carona and Representative Krusee. The entire hearing can be viewed here. Ellis flat out says we don’t need to raise the gas tax nor do we need this shift to toll financing, view condensed testimony here.

Link to TTI report for the Governor’s Business Council directly here.

Texas Monthly blog

Few things are duller than a committee meeting in the interim between legislative sessions. Witnesses drone on about policy choices involving arcane issues. Some of the committees exist only for a short duration and will vanish once the legislative session begins in January. The media almost never shows up for these meetings, which explains why the November 28 meeting of the Study Commission on Transportation Financing received virtually no attention. But a few minutes into the hearing, David Ellis, a co-author of a report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) at Texas A&M, dropped a bombshell on the commission. He said that Texas could finance its highway needs without toll roads. The headline for this post is based on Ellis’s testimony. I have not come across any mainstream media reports of Ellis’s remarks.

Ellis provided the committee with some background on transportation policy. The demand for new and expanded roads in the state’s eight largest metro areas is increasing much faster than TxDot can build them. Over the next 25 years, the population of these areas is projected to increase by 2.8% per year, employment by by 2.3%, vehicles by 2.7%, and daily miles drive by 3%. Over the same period, the number of lane miles that can be built with currently available funding will increase by just .25% per year. Tx-Dot estimates that the state will need an additional $68 billion over the next 25 years to improve mobility. The TTI’s estimate is slightly lower, $66.2 billion. Two-thirds of the needed new construction will be in the state road system, or some $44+ billion; the remainder represents improvements to local roads.

The money for highway construction comes from three sources: vehicle registration fees, the state gasoline (more properly, motor fuels) tax, and reimbursements from the federal gasoline tax, of which Texas sends more revenue to Washington than it gets back. Of these sources, the one that matters the most is the motor fuels tax. But the tax has been losing ground to inflation in recent years.

Now, here is the crucial part of Ellis’s testimony: There are scenarios under which roads can be financed:

1. Raise the motor fuels tax, currently 20 cents per gallon, to 51 cents. Interestingly, a Tx-Dot engineer had previously told the committee that the motor fuels tax would have to be raised to $1.40 per gallon to pay for the needed new construction. Needless to say, the Legislature is not going to raise the tax by 31 cents, much less a buck twenty.

2. Raise the motor fuels tax by 8 cents and index it to inflation, using not the consumer price index, but a special highway construction index. The rate of inflation has been 1/2% to 1 1/2 percent per year.

3. Don’t raise the gasoline tax at all. Instead, index it and put the incremental revenue in the mobility fund, where it can be used to pay off bonds. And here’s the bombshell: “Under this scenario,” Ellis said, ” it wouldn’t be necessary to toll as a means of financing, although that’s certainly an option.”

The cat is out of the bag now. Tolls aren’t the only way to pay for new roads. Will the Legislature allow Tx-Dot to go forward with its mammoth toll road plan, or will lawmakers devise a solution that will allow revenue to be used to build free roads?


0 Replies to “A&M expert: Don't need to raise gas tax at all”

  1. Harvey Beierle

    The promotion of toll roads is the biggest transportation scam since the beginning of the TransGuide scam in San Antonio. This misdirection of highway funds must stop. Transguide alone has consumed funds that could have funded the entire Wurzbach Parkway, the missing interchange at US 281 N at Lp 1604, all of the missing bridges on US 281 north at Encino Pkwy, Stone Oak Pkwy, Bulverde Rd, Borgfeld Rd, etc, etc, with money to spare. And what good is Transguide? A serious driver distraction to meaningless messages, such as LESS THAN 5 MINUTES TO PODUNK ST, CONGESTION (which would not exist had the multi millions have been spent on addional lanes & ramps), and other GARBAGE, that actually causes accidents because of the distraction. The TxDOT coverup needs to be stopped now!

  2. Donald Grussendorf

    Giving away the land under and around the Texas highways is the first step in giving Texas to some out of state or out of country management group. Texans need to control Texas including the highway system and all other property. It is time to counteract the coming and obviously incompetent one world government idiots that are trying to invade America and Texas as well with their greedy near sighted laws and rules. It is time to quit voting party lines and start voting for those that really care about Texas. Seeing Texas and Texans as an easy “mark” for property, power, and personal wealth should be the first mistake in these con artists conceptions. Recalling a dozen of their representatives would be a good black eye for their cause. Stop allowing theives from stealing our heritage, assets, and money. And remember that a closed pocket book is a good voting tool…

  3. John

    Texas Toll Party to NARROW MINDED

    It is my understanding that the TTI report is one of many that TxDOT has commissioned to get ideals from. It is further known that TxDOT is always looking for different opinions, suggestions to make sure that the citizens will always get the best deal for their dollar in Texas, unlike the Texas Toll Party that has one option and that is no Toll Roads. They refuse to look at anything else but that.

    I hate to tell the San Antonio Lighting readers this but the Toll Issue is only an issue here locally. They already have toll roads in Houston, Dallas, Austin and Tyler Tx. It is my understanding that the people there are happy with them. Toll roads are the future of Texas along with other ideals. Thank God that TxDOT doesn’t take its marching orders from Terri Hall and her small narrow minded group.

  4. Brent Burnham

    Let the property owners of Texas decide how to maintain and improve the lands of Texas. If the political representitives truely cared about the future of Texas land and the feelings of Texans more than their own selfcentered agendas, we wouldn’t even be discussing these issues.

  5. Patrick

    “They already have toll roads in Houston, Dallas, Austin and Tyler Tx. It is my understanding that the people there are happy with them.”
    You may be right that Toll Party folks are a bit rigid in opposition, but
    Here in Austin toll roads are not popular at all.

  6. Beverly Branham

    Existing Toll Roads are administered by the cities in which they exist which keeps the money circulating in each city’s economy and pays the school taxes in each city. If Trans Texas Corridor costs $180 billion, that amount of money will leave this state and will not circulate here. It will not pay school taxes. The U.S. Fed income tax will be waived and go to the preferred investors out of our country.

  7. JC

    John Says:

    “They already have toll roads in Houston, Dallas, Austin and Tyler Tx. It is my understanding that the people there are happy with them.”

    Sorry to burst your bubble John, but I live in Austin and Im actually from Tyler and no one I know drives the Loop 49 toll road in Tyler. And you should also know that there is great opposition to the many toll projects going on in Austin as well, just visit austintollparty.com. Toll roads arent bad, but when existing roads and traffic is diverted to accomodate toll roads then it affects everyone. For example, the new 183A toll road in Austin should have a simple exit to allow you to choose the toll road from Hwy 183. But the freeway traffic has been diverted to a frontage road with several new traffic lights while the new tollway lanes take over the old “free”way. Instead of superfluous lip-service about how good this will be and how much time it will save, how about some real numbers and facts about this situation? How about some facts like what this website provides??

  8. Nancy Strack

    The whole problem could be solved first by firing all the top people at TXDOT and replacing them with people who can think independently, who can use common sense and who are not tied at the the hip to the rich and powerful who just want to make money and thumb their noses at the taxpayers.

    They can also stop giving away our gas tax money to fund other programs. Gas tax money should be used only on roads. Period. TXDOT would have all the money it needs to take care of our roads.

  9. Gary Cain

    Who said Tyler is happy with tollroads? Never will be. Mary Mays TxDOT engineer in Tyler is happy with tollroads – she probably got a raise when they ran over the citizens and got the toll road established. Sure, the local leaders wanted a tollroad because they’ll get the taxes from it. Businesses don’t build on tollroads, houses aren’t built on tollroads. TxDOT and our state government are just trying to raise taxes on us without calling it a tax. I’ll never drive on a tollroad.
    I’ve heard of other cities having tollroads and it just makes me want to not travel there. Would like to drive to San Antonio but you won’t be able to enter the city unless you enter on a tollroad. I happily won’t pay their tax, maybe others won’t either.

  10. Pingback: San Antonio - Toll Party » Blog Archive » TxDOT promotes charge by mile scheme…and HIGHEST POSSIBLE TOLLS!

  11. Eric

    I agree. There is absolutely no need for toll roads in Texas especially if they are going to be built on the same right of way as existing roads. It is a stinking crooked deal. I’ve driven through Austin on numerous occasions and have seen only an occasional car exiting to the toll roads off 35. In Houston same thing on 6. However Dallas has it planned. You can’t drive to the suburbs without being on a toll road and maintenance on them is poor and congestion bad. North Dallas Tollway is still being built out further north, yet the entrance at 35E is falling apart and constantly being repaired. Yup, I understand how tollways will releive congestion. I don’t believe for a second that they will build parallel roads to the toll ones. The powers at TxDot still haven’t fixed the freeways that have been crumbling for the last 25 years. As I understand it, in San Antonio, we are at about year 7 of the 5 year plan to repair and upgrade 410. TxDot created the condition to begin with to force their point of a need for toll roads. This is a bad precendent when we let unelected officials make public policy.

    The change over to TxDot was a bad idea as well. It has become a bureaucratic adminstrative agency for Construction Contractors. I have a novel idea. How about a state department that actually builds the roads like some states still have. All we have now is Zachry laughing all the way to the bank. There are far too many lawyers and pin heads in Austin thinking of new ways to take money from you.

  12. Another Annoyed Austinite

    Agreed. Toll roads here in Austin are not popular at all. I tried using it a couple times to speed things along, but it doesn’t do much at all (on 183A). They created traffic problems so that the toll would be more attractive. Like re-routing traffic around the 183A toll, and putting in more stops.

    On top of that, the put in cash booths to pay the toll, but if you continue to head south on 183A the charge you another 50 cents to use that portion of the road; with out a cash booth option. So they tag you with a rediculous $5 administration fee because the $1.50 you just paid at the toll booth didn’t cover that, and that is a Txtag only segment of the road. Poorly labeled roads to not indicate that the toll you paid doesn’t cover that.

    Basically it is a planned violation trap.

    The first time I took the toll was because I missed my exit. I see a Txtag only sign over the road heading north, thinking oh crap, I’m going to get a toll violation. But then I noticed the toll booths, and thought ok cool they have booths so you can pay cash if you don’t have a Txtag. Nope, so I paid $7 to use the toll road.

    And you can’t fight them on it or refuse to pay the ridiculous “administration fee”, otherwise you end up in jail.

    I paid their violation fees and will not ever use another toll here in Austin. There isn’t anyone I know who uses them either.

    Jump on Parmer, it’s just as fast if not faster if you’re going the distance.

  13. Mike

    As a response to John from Dec. 16th: Narrow minded some may be and Toll roads are springing up around Dallas and Ft. Worth but I assure you it is not because we like them. We have been the victims of TxDot doing whatever they darn well please even with strong objection from local City Councils or the public. They are of course almost untouchable and unaccountable. The treat tax dollars as if it belonged to them. Their arrogance at a Plano City Council meeting was disgraceful. They basicaly told our citizens they were going to do things their way whether we liked it or not. Why to you think a large percentage of Replublicans in one of the most Repulican counties in the state (Collin) did not vote in corresponding numbers from previous elections for Gov. Perry? Winning by less than 40% of the popular vote should be an obvious message that many don’t like that way things are going in Austin. To those who read this, this is not just a Texas issue. This Trans Tx Toll road is just the Texas leg of an International Trans US highway that Washington wants to run from Mexico to Cananda. The information is out there, go and find it. Privatization of roadways is merely another way to raise taxes and call it something else.

  14. James

    Im not a Texan but my best of wishes are with you defeating this outragous TAX. Theres a few things that should never be turned over to private organizations. Water supply, Roads, any form of taxing. This is crap and its springing up everywhere. Toll roads must be stopped. Its a matter of free movement that I truly believe our government is moving to control, at the same time profitting. Those EZpass things you stick in your window Track you. The New Jersey DOT use those to see whos on the roads and when. Court cases have used the EZpass data against people. Look it up google “NJ EZpass tracking” it uses RFID. They have also passed Real ID act of 2005 which will do the same thing to us, Track us. It will creat a national ID card that they wanted to have RFID chips in it but later over outrage got scraped. All that means is it will be back later. This is more then just Toll roads. Its all connected through North American Union. Visit websites to help save our USA as we know it. JBS.org, StopSPP.com/org, stoprealid.info, aclu.org, eff.org, epic.org and others. We have to stop the likes of this from going any further. Most of the elected officals are currupt and must be treated as such. Lets vote them out theres plenty of good hearted people willing to take our country back and not give it away to other governments for profit or elites that want controll over us. I close with a great quote.

    U.S. Supreme Court
    APTHEKER v. SECRETARY OF STATE, 378 U.S. 500 (1964)

    “MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS, concurring.”
    . . .
    “Free movement by the citizen is of course as dangerous to a tyrant as free expression of ideas or the right of assembly and it is therefore controlled in most countries in the interests of security. That is why riding boxcars carries extreme penalties in Communist lands. That is why the ticketing of people and the use of identification papers are routine matters under totalitarian regimes, yet abhorrent in the United States.”

  15. David Smith

    John, John, John. TxDOT is perfectly willing to sit there as Deputy Executive Director Stephen Simmons did with me for an hour in January 2008–before I had first contacted or spoken with Terri Hall or TURF. But when it comes time to move from LISTENING to ACTING, TxDOT errs on the side of toll roads every single time.

    Can you point to ONE project in Texas that was originally proposed as a Toll Road that was changed to a free-access roadway paid for with gas taxes and taxpayer funds???

    Be careful who you point fingers at and call “narrow-minded.” I know the solution to congestion, and it has nothing to do with LANES and everything to do with RAMPS. TxDOT lists their first, self-stated purpose as “congestion relief.” Yet when you look back historically at every era of highways and freeways (State Highways, bypasses & freeways, Eisenhower System, HOV lanes, managed lanes, et al) you see the good and knowledgeable engineers at TxDOT finding new and innovative ways to DESIGN CONGESTION INTO FREEWAYS. Be careful who you put your faith, hope, trust and allegiance in.

    The goal that I have, personally, in being involved in transportation lobbying and citizen activism is to realize–FINALLY!!–congestion relief. Yet when the solution to the problem was presented to them, TxDOT said, “Thanks, no thanks.”

    It is not TURF and its citizen activists who are narrow-minded. WE are the ones with the innovative proposals and alternatives to Gov. Perry’s toll road strategies. WE are the ones willing to stand up and challenge incumbents in elections (Hank Gilbert for Ag Commish, myself for US House in TX32). WE are anything but narrow-minded. Thanks for playing, though.

    Oh, and you wouldn’t happen to work in the transportation industry, would you??? I’ve spoken with colleagues of yours who agree with my proposal. It is the real estate guys like John Carona who stand in the way. Apparently they suscribe to this idiotic notion that congestion causes this unexplainable desire to exit the freeway and shop in their frontage developments.

    Talk about narrow-minded!

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